The Uncontrollable Fire That’s Raged Underground for 48 Years

Centralia, PennsylvaniaPhoto: flickr.com

Several days prior to Memorial Day, 1962, the city of Centralia, Pennsylvania, attempted to clean up the town landfill as they had always done, by hiring the fire department to burn it.

This fateful task began an inferno in the network of abandoned coal mines underneath the city that is burning to this day.

No one noticed the fire until a year after it had started, when gas began to seep up, through the ground. Pretty soon, the carbon monoxide and other poisonous gasses from the burning coal started to flood homes in the small town.

When they realized that the fire was not going to go out by itself, the city spent nearly a hundred thousand dollars attempting to extinguish the fire. They tried flooding the mines with ash and other engineering solutions, but nothing worked and the city virtually stopped trying to solve the problem.

Centralia, PennsylvaniaPhoto: flickr.com

In 1979, the local gas station had to be closed because it was discovered that the fire was heating up the fuel stored underground.

The coal continued burning underneath the city and weakened the surface. When a 12 year old boy fell in through the ground, national media coverage brought federal funding to the problem. However, everything that was attempted only seemed to add fuel, and oxygen, to the growing inferno.

Eventually, all efforts ceased and a $42million evacuation was ordered.

By 2007, no residents remained in the area. And the fire still burns today, releasing poisonous gas into the local atmosphere.

As an aside, an interesting fact is that the oldest fire still burning today is a 2,000 year old inferno in New South Wales, Australia – apparently started by a lightning strike, the fire still burns over 500 feet below ground.

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